|« Fire Unravel Late, Spoiling Otherwise Solid Performance||White Sox Early Success Stems From Offense »|
Bears Tue May 06 2014
During an offseason in which the Chicago Bears gave starting quarterback Jay Cutler $54 million of guaranteed money, who would've thought quarterback would be so paramount to the Bears in the first round of Thursday's NFL Draft. No, it's not because the Bears are planning on picking one -- they most certainly won't. But if they plan on getting an impactful defensive player who is high on their board, they need help from the other teams above them.
Despite being one of the most talented draft classes in years, there is very little agreement when it comes to mock drafts. Some have Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater going in the top three overall, while others have him falling all the way out of the first round. The only guys that seem to be guaranteed in the top seven picks are South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo LB Khalil Mack, and Clemson WR Sammy Watkins. A few extra weeks tacked onto the draft process hasn't helped clear the muddy waters.
In last Thursday's pre-draft press conference (which I'm still trying to figure out the purpose of), Bears general manager Phil Emery confirmed that the Bears were looking at six players with the 14th pick in the draft. He obviously didn't confirm any names or positions, but based on the list of Bears needs, it's fairly obvious that the team will be going defense in the first round, with the focus likely being at defensive tackle, safety or corner.
For players like Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald, Alabama FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Louisville S Calvin Pryor, and Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert (most likely the top four names on Emery's list), the Bears need teams to stop pretending they're not interested in drafting a quarterback early, and take a stab at landing their signal callers of the future. Though there's strong belief that Bridgewater, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, and Central Florida QB Blake Bortles could all go somewhere in the top 13, it's also conceivable that none of those guys are selected. This scenario is played out by Adam Hoge of CBS, in which case the top defensive players the Bears are looking at all get scooped up before they're on the clock at 14.
Hoge has the Bears passing on Calvin Pryor and taking Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller in the first round (one of the four guys I believe is filling the final two spots on the team's target list, to go along with Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Alabama LB C.J. Mosley and Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard), which isn't all bad, but not what Emery is hoping for come Thursday night.
If Aaron Donald (who I have as top seven player) is off the board at 14 but three or even four of the other guys Emery is eyeballing are still available, you might see the Bears trade down a couple of spots if someone approaches them. They only have the standard seven picks in this draft (no seventh round pick, but two sixth round selections), and would welcome a chance to add to that in hopes of filling more needs with younger players. But they won't sacrifice a talented defensive player just to add picks in the third round or later. Emery and his team are focused on landing a playmaker on Thursday night.
Trading up to land a guy like Donald to play the three-technique spot on the defensive line would be a great idea in normal years, but with the lack of extra picks, it's almost impossible to move up the board with so many glaring holes in the Bears' depth chart.
We were surprised last year when the Bears took Kyle Long in the first round, but I don't see a surprise like that coming in this year's draft. Emery confirmed that there was a dropoff after the first few safeties, which might hint that the Bears are going to take one when Roger Goodell puts them on the clock, but it's just as likely that it was an honest comment from a honest GM. There's a large majority that agrees with the assessment of Clinton-Dix and Pryor being the only two first round quality safeties, and if Donald and Gilbert aren't around at 14, you'll more than likely see one of the defensive backs written on the card.
The only way the Bears get a chance at picking from the players they want is if teams like Cleveland, Jacksonville, Oakland, and Minnesota take a shot at the quarterback they like most. It only takes one team snatching their top QB to start a run at the position, and the Bears need all the help they can get to fix a defense that ranked among the NFL's worst in 2013.